As summers go, 2016 has been pretty big for the England Women’s team: a new captain, a new focus, even a new tournament. Their journey continues this winter as they head to the West Indies – winners of the World T20. We spoke to Alex Hartley, one of the new faces from this summer, who’s been picked to travel on her first tour.
ENGLAND SQUAD TO TOUR WEST INDIES
Heather Knight (captain)
Anya Shrubsole (vice-captain)
Amy Jones (wkt)
Alex, congratulations on the call-up! How were you told the news?
We were just at training and we were about to play football – just as we were about to start Robbo called me over and said I wasn’t allowed to play. He’s seen my play before – I’ve got two left feet! I was really nervous that I’d done something wrong – I thought I was going to get told off! My initial thought was ‘I’m not going, I’m not going! Sugar, that’s it, the end!’ – you always think the worst – but then he said they were going to take me to the West Indies and I couldn’t believe it! He told me I didn’t need to look so shocked but I’ve just had the biggest smile on my face ever since. I can’t wait to get out there and get going.
A lot of hard work waits around the corner, of course, but it’s not a bad place to go on your first full England tour?
Definitely! I rang my parents as soon as I got the news and said ‘Book your flights!’ so they’ll be coming over to watch.
It’s rounded off a year that’s been pretty special for you.
It has, yeah. It’s been unbelievable. I didn’t think I’d ever do it, you know? So many athletes train so long and never get anywhere and to have finally made it is just amazing.
And you have had to work for this. You moved to Middlesex from Lancashire to give your career a kick-start and now you’re reaping the rewards. That must make it particularly special?
It does, yeah. The move to Middlesex was probably the start of it, without me realising at the time. I’ve been here for four years now, it’s been fantastic and I’m so excited about what the future holds.
You’re not the only spinner in the squad – there’s Laura Marsh, Danni Hazell and Sophie Ecclestone, as well – and there are others on the verge of selection. How much pressure does that put on you to perform?
I think knowing that Soph – another left-armer – is around is massive competition, but I thrive off it. I love the competition. If she wasn’t in the squad then maybe you’d start to think, ‘Oh, I’ll probably play,’ but you can’t afford to think like that. She’s come in, she’s only 17, it’s a great opportunity for her but it’s the same for me, I want to show what I can do.
Do you learn from each other?
Yes, we learn off each other massively. She bowls her arm ball really well, disguises it brilliantly, so it’s great to have a chat about how we do what we do. We bowl together every week in the nets so that’s a big thing for the both of us. It’s a massive opportunity for us and I’m really excited about it.
The summer just gone was a big one for women’s cricket in England, and specifically for the England team as well. Was it important to start well after the changes that had taken place?
It was very important. The summer we had was just mind-blowing, in terms of how well the girls did. People were given opportunities and every single person took their opportunity. The West Indies tour gives us the opportunity to prove that we can still play that style of cricket against one of the world’s best teams.
And some of the West Indies stars were over here during the KSL, do you think you might be able to benefit from having played against them recently?
I’m not sure, when I bowled to Stafanie Taylor during the Kia Super League she smashed me all over the park so I’m looking forward to trying to get some revenge!
Despite that you were up near the top of the tournament wicket-takers. Was it a tournament that you learned a lot from?
Definitely. I went in to the tournament with something to prove, I wanted to show that Twenty20 cricket could be my game. It’s a format of the game where you need to be able to field well but I wanted to prove that I was good enough. It went quite well for me – I enjoyed it – and it’s great to have shown that I can be a threat.
How keen are you to prove that the improvements on show this summer can be replicated against the world’s best?
At the moment, everyone’s just really excited about getting to the West Indies and getting started. It’s definitely the unknown, and that makes us even more keen to get there. We know they’ve got a few big dogs who are some of the world’s best and we want to prove a point – and we want to win.
October 8 2016 | 1st ODI | Trelawny Stadium, Trelawny
October 10 2016 | 2nd ODI | Trelawny Stadium, Trelawny
October 14 2016 | 3rd ODI * | Sabina Park, Kingston
October 16 2016| 4th ODI * | Sabina Park, Kingston
October 19 2016 | 5th ODI * | Sabina Park, Kingston
*ICC Women’s Championship Fixture